Most people’s opinions and worldviews evolve over the course of their lifetime. Our life experiences and our exposure to new information or ideas cause us to change how we think—how we think about the outside world, opinions and cultures that differ from ours, other people, and of course ourselves. We label others and we label ourselves. At one point, we probably gave a lot of thought to how others labeled us. But how we think about ourselves and also the importance we place on the opinions of others, luckily for most of us, both mature as our age and experience increase. The meaning of certain labels and the importance we place on them can drastically change over time. Here are four of those:
The Cool Kid
As we begin to mature into adulthood, it becomes less and less important to us to be viewed as the “cool girl” or the “cool guy.” The laidback, no frills “cool girl” becomes less concerned with being “one of the guys” and more set on becoming increasingly comfortable with developing into whom she believes is her true self. The “cool guy” becomes less preoccupied with impressing the crowd and more concerned with living up to his own expectations and standards. The cool kid matures and eventually learns that the coolest thing he or she can do is develop, embrace, and love oneself without regard for the approval of others.
Back in high school not many people gloated about how many hours they spent studying or working on a project the previous night. A majority of us were too busy whispering to our friends about our latest crush or making plans for the weekend. We weren’t often asking our friends what they thought about certain concepts in our theology class. As we mature, we embrace our nerdy or inquisitive nature and seek others who don’t shy away from that. We enjoy building knowledge or constructing ideas about our favorite topics (like say philosophy, politics, or music) and conversing with people who share our interests or challenge our worldviews. We happily surround ourselves with fellow intellectuals who prefer discussing current events or ideas rather than people. As we mature, we recognize intelligence as being sexy—not something to downplay.
The Friend Group
In high school, cliques and posses ran amuck. If others in your school (or small town) weren’t able to list off the group of people with whom you associated, you were a rare bird. In our younger years, our friend group essentially defined us—whether or not we realized it. My town’s “in crowd” [*eye roll*] would live and die by Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister; the group had specific hangout spots at which it was “cool” to be seen—the volleyball courts, the Methodist Church’s parking lot, etc. We hung out with people we were like or wanted to be like. As we mature, we appreciate people with interests and lifestyles different from our own. We learn that associating with one specific group of likeminded people stunts our personal growth. We no longer care about the “in crowd.” We now yearn for honest human connection in an array of new settings or landscapes.
Once upon a time, we defined success as the achievement of straight A’s or by our ability to qualify for a championship game or meet. After that, our colleges and then careers defined success for us. If we made a significant amount of money, acquired fame, or got promoted at our prestigious company, we would consider ourselves successful. Somewhere along the way we grasped the concepts of fulfillment and happiness. We realized money is meaningless when one’s life lacks purpose. Instead of seeking to stuff our wallets, stroke our egos, or build our résumés, we learned fueling our passions leads to achieving our own personal definitions of success—our own happy place, not the life others tell us is best to achieve. Contentment, fulfillment, and happiness become our gauges of success as we mature. Thank God we mature.
My wish for you is that you stop placing importance on the labels others impose upon you. Embrace yourself as you are or strive to become the person you’d be the happiest to claim as yourself.